Around the Studio: Artist + Maker + Coder = Designer

by Emily Twaddell

I was all set to compose a riveting post (pun intended) about the creative work of Invo designer Sarah Kaiser, who sits next to me, makes me tea, and amazes me several times a day with her magical skills. While thinking about how to frame this little story, I did some quick research into Maker culture, which seemed to be the right context. I discovered that the theory of constructivism that I had studied so long ago in college, is a foundational value of Makers. Venturing over to Pinterest opened a whole new world of time-sink bliss with links to education, science, school libraries, learning, DIY, projects, and—yes!!—design.

But then I happened to open Facebook (note to self: no FB before homework is done). A literary academic friend had posted a link to a scathing article that very nearly burst my artisanal, plant-dyed, spun-local-organic cane sugar balloon: Keywords for the Age of Austerity 12: DIY (Do It Your [Damn] Self). Here I sat in my cozy little home studio, surrounded by my craft library and supplies (yes, some rescued from the trash) and read this political rant against an admittedly appalling suggestion that poor residents of government housing learn to make their own repairs. It was the trashing of middle-class do-it-yourselfers (hey, that’s me!), along with the reference to “the apolitical hubris that ... fatally compromise[d] the Arts and Crafts and 60s ‘maker’ movements” that bothered me. Yes, I understood his points about lack of significant economic reforms in the context of those historical movements. And that the DIY trends of the 1950s and 60s and even now were and are heavily gender-biased. In my childhood years it was my oldest brother who subscribed to Popular Mechanics and built Healthkit radio sets. He once bottled his own root beer and we spent summer nights listening to the caps blow off the bottles in the basement. My mom made many of my clothes and I was sewing by the time I was 8 or so, we made grape jelly and pie from scratch and never used gravy from a can or a bottle. My dad, a doctor, wasn’t “handy” but, when my sister tore her ACL in a childhood fall, he splinted her leg with cedar shakes and sanitary pads wrapped with Ace™ bandages.

Except for the splinting, it wasn't out of necessity that we did these things, it was because it was fun and interesting. Is that not a good enough reason? And now, in the 21st century, puttering around the makerspace involves a new level of industrial magic with the integration of contemporary technologies. The lines between work and play are interweaving, not just blurring. Anyone can weld sturdy, pretty things. Anyone can sew pretty, sturdy things. Anyone can learn to program them, in some cases, even quite a young child. Or an, ahem, older person.

So, not to disapoint, back to Sarah's play/work/art/construction. Sarah grew up what might now be called a free-range kid, exporing the woods and fields around her rural home while crafting her own toys and fixing broken electronics. Her mom taught her to solder at an early age, which garden flowers were edible, and a fiercely independent self-reliance. RIT nurtured her design and coding skills. A nearby makerspace, Artisan’s Asylum gives her room to work on bigger project using power tools. Commuting by public transit allows plenty of sketching time, and she is never without a sketchbook. Ever.

Take a few minutes to indulge your mind and consider a few examples of the incredible range of talents that Sarah brings to Invo and to our clients. No apolitical hubris here, nor gender bias, nor the dabblings of a discontented Millenial. This is real art, from-scratch making, seriously true design work.


Sarah designed and constructed this costume. At right is a portion of the Arduino program she wrote to control the claw you see over her left shoulder.


Sarah’s prized Form 1 3-D printer with its first form emerging like closely spaced tiny icicles. At right is a set of detailed wings she designed and printed to use in a new costume embellishment.


Sarah giving an Invo tech talk on molding with resins.


Many sketches are always hand-drawn first, for new a Health Axioms card.


Sarah casually drinking tea while modeling a flexible armored glove she created. Note the finished wing decoration on the (faux) weapon.


Sarah helped to design Tabeeb, a medical interaction framework that enables clinicians to discuss and document patient cases. Tabeeb is a product of NxTec Corporation.

I hope you have enjoyed this artistic interlude, it was fun sharing with you. Have a good week!


Topics: Design, Blog